Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Gets US FAA Clearance
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given its permission to Virgin Galactic for its suborbital spacecraft, SpaceshipTwo, and the carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo. Reuters

South African space tourism company Orbital Horizon has charged Virgin Galactic of misleading the public by stating it was the first agent in the country to offer outer space flights. The local agency said that by doing so they might experience loss of valuable customers, thereby threatening its very existence.

In March last year, Times Live reported that Orbital Horizon, owned by Brad Inggs, became the first African space tourism agent to offer tickets for travel aboard a new suborbital spaceship. The spaceship, which is roughly the size of a small private aircraft, was reported to reach suborbital space in a matter of three minutes.

"Unlike other space travel, for which the passenger sits in the back and then unbuckles to get to the window to look out, the Lynx passenger sits next to the pilot and has a full view of what's in front of him," Inggs stated earlier.

According to Times Live, a letter delivered to Virgin Galactic Travel and Tourism's development department in London, by Orbital Horizon, explained it was the first agent in South Africa to offer flights to outer space and Virgin was not playing fair.

"We'd like to make clear that we are all for competition. In fact we are glad to see Virgin Galactic arrive; we've been wondering when they'd eventually come join the party," said Inggs, before adding that Virgin announced last week Vanessa Rothery was the first and only agent in this country to open sales for suborbital journey.

"Virgin Galactic's confusion comes when they call their own space agent training programme 'accredited' without explaining it fully. When the general public and media read this they get the perception that Orbital Horizon or any other space agent is not accredited," said Inggs.

However, a Virgin representative mentioned the company never claimed to be the first and only space agent in South Africa.

"Virgin said that it had appointed its first space agent for sales in South Africa and its first Virgin Galactic accredited agent in the country. At no stage did Virgin mislead the public," the representative reportedly said.